Eight-Foot High-Speed Tunnel

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Using concrete, the material of choice for projects funded by the Public Works Administration, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics completed this pioneering Eight-Foot High-Speed Tunnel in 1936. The most vibration-free wind tunnel yet experienced, it became the premier facility for testing high-speed, high-performance aircraft. Here the 16,000-horsepower electric motor/fan produced an airstream flowing at nearly the speed of sound (Mach 0.9). It was the first high-speed tunnel capable of testing large models and actual airplane sections. America’s high-performance aircraft of World War II were perfected here, and critical research also led to the development of supersonic aircraft. In 1950, the slotted-throat test section was installed enabling the initial tests which led to Richard Whitcomb’s discovery of the transonic arc rule. By the mid-1990s, the Eight-Foot High-Speed Tunnel facility (now the Eight-Foot Transonic Tunnel) had been rendered obsolete. The office portion of the structure was remodeled and leased to the Langley Air Force Base in the early 2000s, while the tunnel circuit remained abandoned. In 2011, the tunnel circuit was demolished. Originally a National Historic Landmark under the Man in Space Theme Study Federal Agency Nomination, that designation was removed in 2014, and the office portion of the facility was transferred from NASA to the Air Force in April of 2016.

Last Updated: January 5, 2024

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VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark

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